Looking within
Reviewed by
Aditi Garg

Why are We Still Like this Only
By Dr Jaideep Singh Chadha.
Diamond Books.
Pages 236. Rs 150.

TO sit back and describe in detail all the shortcomings of someone requires some brains, but to sit up and take stock of your own flawed existence takes a lot of heart. It is easy being judgemental, however, what really needs courage is to look within with not rose-tinted glasses but through a magnifying glass. India was always looked up to as the quintessential golden sparrow. Even today we continue to harbour this dream. That period of glory is long past and what we are basically left with is a gift from our invaders and plunderers that forbids us to rise above the realms of slavery, mental or otherwise.

Jaideep Singh Chadha puts these thoughts across so beautifully that we cannot but agree. Born in Mumbai, he went on to earn his medical graduate degree from Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla, and then did his MD from PGI, Chandigarh. He has also authored Vinculum and The Funny Side of Golf. He has also been awarded the Vijay Ratan. What he says in this book is disguised under the garb of humour, but its force and impact leaves you reeling.

Chadha picks up various aspects of our day-to-day life and unravels the very fabric to expose how moth-ridden and frayed it is. We pride ourselves on being religious. In terms of the sheer volume of Gods and Goddesses that we worship, we are the undisputed kings. But, does that also translate to compassion and piousness? That is the catch. We could just as easily slay kids for sacrifice at the altar of a misinformed tantric as we could burn brides for dowry. He also rues the lack of solidarity in a theoretically secular state. How else can there be so many communal riots. If the political parties stop playing to vote banks, there would indeed be peace and more civic amenities for all.

When a country with a bustling population of many billions can count its literary, sports, art, political, patriotic, and other heroes on its fingertips, is it really something to be proud of? Even today, in spite of the economic progress that we have made, we are known for our snake charmers, cows on the roads and filth. It is made to sound like rustic charm but is eons away from being charming in any which way. We could make the population issue work to our advantage if this laid back attitude is done away with. We could have a huge productive workforce and be a force to reckon with, but we have to want it badly enough.

The author laments the way Indians working for the British during the British occupation turned on their countrymen, bowing to slavery without questioning it. Had this not happened, the Jallianwala massacre and other such events could have been avoided. This attitude lingers even today as we yearn to settle abroad doing menial jobs that the locals shirk. Our eagerness to be accepted makes us change names, look up to the West to approve our cinema and other such childish reaffirmations.

Chadha has written the book with many anecdotes that help illustrate the points he wants to put forth. He has done a commendable job of not brushing anything under the carpet. The book is bold and in your face. His dialogues with SaMule raise the book to a new level. Be it our expertise at adulteration, fascination with long futile forms, religious fanaticism, which comes to the fore only as a matter of convenience or displaced sense of morality, he deals with them all with equal ease and panache. It lays out solutions to problems that we tend to put aside under our "We are like that only" attitude. It is a must read for everyone who has ever muttered, "Is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta".